By T. Scott Boatirght
The Lincoln Preparatory School Panthers had one goal heading into Thursday’s game at Plain Dealing — win and win big to secure the best playoff positioning it can.
And the Panthers accomplished that goal in a big way as Lincoln Prep tamed the Tigers with a 32-0 victory and recorded its second shutout of the season.
Lincoln Prep recorded a 46-0 win at Ringgold earlier this season.
“I think it puts us in a good situation,” said Lincoln Prep coach Glen Hall of the win over Plain Dealing. “We ended with a pretty good record and just looking forward to next week and starting the postseason. We start off at home, and that’s looking more and more exciting by the minute.”
The Panthers have not played a home game in Grambling this season because of an ongoing lawsuit regarding a decades-old desegregation ruling that ended up with the old Grambling Laboratory High School becoming Lincoln Prep in 2016.
So after playing a home game at Cedar Creek this season, and two at Jonesboro-Hodge, Hall said it’s looking favorable for the Panthers to have a home playoff game in Lincoln Parish next week, maybe even in Grambling.
“The way it’s looking, we’ve had some great people from Louisiana Tech talk to us and offer us their facility. That would be incredible,” Hall said. “But maybe even better, it looks like we might be out of the lawsuit by the end of the weekend so that we could possibly play in Grambling. We’ve got two great universities interested in the kids. Either one would be a great place for these kids to finally play a true home playoff game.”
While the Panthers ended up with a big win at Plain Dealing, it did take them some time to get to running at full speed.
“We started slow,” Hall admitted. “(Plain Dealing) rushed the ball pretty good on us early on, which they shouldn’t have been able to do. We were actually fortunate to hold on for the shutout, because it didn’t look like that would happen in the first half. But even though Plain Dealing moved the ball some, we were able to keep them scoring. We’d bend, but recovered and stopped them from scoring every time.
“It’s just one of those things where we just didn’t perform the way we needed to at first. We went into halftime knowing we were going to have to turn it up in the second half.”
On the game’s opening series, Lincoln Prep lit up the scoreboard first on a safety when Plain Dealing snapped the ball over the quarterback’s head into the end zone and the Panthers pounced on it for the defensive score.
Lincoln Prep would add a first-quarter score and another touchdown late in the first half to take a 14-0 lead at intermission.
The Panthers then grabbed control on the first drive of the third quarter.
“We took it down and scored, and then held them, got the ball back and marched down and scored again,” Hall said. “Things started getting easier and easier at that point as we gained momentum and kept building on it.
“After we built that kind of lead, we just kept running and trying to chew up the clock. It was a running clock after that, so the second half flew by pretty fast. Our thinking was to just try to get out of there without any injuries at that point.”
The Panthers scored five rushing touchdowns on the night.
“Dmitry Payne actually made some big runs for us to set up those early touchdowns,” Hall said. “He put us in scoring position a couple of times in the first half with his running.
“That set up rushing touchdowns by Ta’Rell (Simmons) on a quarterback sneak (from one-yard out) and then a quarterback draw (from three yards out) before Simmons broke a long one (for a 58-yard score).”
Lincoln Prep’s other two touchdowns came on a four-yard run by Jarmarius Buggs and a six-yard scoring scamper by Chauncey Harper.
Hall said getting the shutout provides solid postseason momentum for his Panthers, who held opponents to 12 points or under in five of their six regular-season wins.
“It’s big to do that going into the playoffs,” Hall said of the Panthers pulling off the shutout victory. “It shows we can play defense. The thing is, we still have to pick it up even more. Once we decide to play defensive consistently, the way we did tonight, then we may be something to be reckoned with in the playoffs.”
The Panthers (6-4), who stand at No. 12 in Class 1A unofficial power rankings provided by GeauxPreps.com, will learn their playoff opponent on Sunday when the Louisiana High School Athletic Association releases official postseason brackets.